Coronavirus: UAE could flatten curve in 2-3 weeks, says COVID-19 health official

A man wearing a protective mask stands at a racetrack overlooking Dubai following the UAE's decision to postpone the upcoming Dubai Horse Racing amid the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, on March 23, 2020 in Dubai. (File photo: AFP)

The UAE’s coronavirus curve – that shows the number of new cases recorded daily – could flatten in two to three weeks, according to Dr. Adil Sajwani, a family medicine doctor with the Ministry of Health and Prevention and a member of the national awareness team for COVID-19 in the UAE.

Flattening the curve is key to ensuring healthcare systems don’t become overwhelmed by a high number of cases in a short period of time. It could also be a key indicator of when economies can begin to re-open.

Read more: Flattening the coronavirus curve in the Arab world

“We hope that we will contain the disease in the next two to three weeks,” Sajwani told Al Arabiya English. “But people are still going out, they’re still gathering, some are still having parties, so this is also a challenge. Containing or flattening the curve is a challenge.”

The UAE’s death rate is just 0.6 percent, and the country has reported 22 deaths, said Sajwani. The global death rate is around 4 percent, according to World Health Organization statistics. Germany, which has begun mass testing like the UAE, has a similarly low death rate at less than half a percent.

Sajwani said that with drive-thru testing now open in all emirates, the UAE is conducting 15,000 tests per day, which means over 100,000 each week.

“We do our best as a government to test and contain people,” he said. “We have isolation in 5-star hotels, and we have people in at-home quarantine, and we’re using hotels for quarantine.”

The daily case count has so far continued to rise, but this may be due to increased testing efforts that identify cases that previously went undetected. The UAE has completed 539,195 screenings over the past several weeks, according to Health Minister Abdul Rahman al-Owais. He added test numbers will double over the coming period.

If a person has pre-existing conditions, is elderly, or pregnant, they can be tested for free. Additionally, those with travel history and those who have come into contact with an infected person or those showing severe symptoms can be tested for free. For those who are not showing symptoms, testing is around 370 dirhams, or $100, said Sajwani.

Yesterday, the UAE announced 387 new cases, following 376 new cases the day before. Currently, there are 4,123 cases, and 680 have recovered. The number of new cases per day increased throughout early April, from 53 new cases on April 1 to 331 on April 10.

The UAE extended a nationwide disinfection program indefinitely on April 4 to slow the fast-moving virus. Originally launched March 26, the program was supposed to last through the weekend, but was extended.

Read more: Coronavirus: Which countries will re-open first?

Sajwani stressed the importance of staying home as much as possible and taking proper prevention measures, like washing hands often and thoroughly.

“By staying at home, we can stop that spread and eventually after several weeks we’ll see the number of new cases slow down,” Dr. Zachary Binney, an epidemiologist at Emory University previously told Al Arabiya English.

Binney explained that these measures take time to work because an infected person could take two to 14 days to develop symptoms. It takes even longer for the virus to exit a person’s body and for a person not be contagious to others.

“So even after we issue the stay at home orders, all those cases that happened before the order, they’re still going to pop up, and that may be why you’re still seeing the numbers increase, and the other part of that is we’re doing more testing,” he said.

The UAE is now in its third week of lockdown measures, and as people continue to stay home, the UAE’s curve should flatten soon.

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Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 10:02 - GMT 07:02
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